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The first thing Seokjin ever says to Yoongi is, "Are you going to make me cry, too?"

This is, of course, not technically the first thing Seokjin says to Yoongi. He says hello, and nice to meet you. He asks Yoongi for clarification on his lines, bids him goodbye. He greets him a second time, and a third time, possibly a fourth. It all doesn't matter because Yoongi never paid any heed to the words, answered them out of habit and moved along, the remembrance of the conversations already dissipated like the fog of warm breath in the freezing air of winter.

As a too-young, too-new, too-ambitious producer, Yoongi interacts with countless idols and singers, managers, directors, and everyone in between. He doesn't pay much attention to what they say – the good or the bad. His two concerns are getting his music out to as many ears as possible, and paying his bills. Their order usually varies with how many days he has left to pay his part of the rent.

He knows he met Kim Seokjin, the visual in a recently debuted three-member idol group called E.L. He knows he's even had a few meetings together with all the members, Jin Hyosang and Jung Hoseok included. He vaguely recalls their faces, enough to match a name to them when they appear but not enough to conjure up an image in his mind. He knows they spoke, offered opinions, asked questions about the tracks Yoongi is working on for their comeback. He doesn't really remember any particulars of it, though. That was when the words from Seokjin's mouth meant nothing, far before they meant something, and then later, everything.

And thus, the first thing Seokjin ever says to Yoongi, the first thing that sticks in his mind, and the only memory that replays when he closes his eyes and draws it up, is –

"Are you going to make me cry, too?"

Yoongi's head shoots up, his face already scrunching in protest. "That was a misunderstanding," he starts, but trails off when he sees that Seokjin is silently laughing and trying quite valiantly to sober, pressing his lips tightly together, his face turning red with the effort. Yoongi narrows his eyes. "Are you teasing me?"

Seokjin miraculously sobers and shakes his head slowly, saying in a deep, serious intonation, "No, of course not." He almost convinces Yoongi, if not for the telltale twitch of his lips, quivering with barely contained laughter.

Yoongi sighs and leans back in his chair. "He had allergies, okay. I never made anyone cry, it's all unfounded rumors." He pouts. "It was a misunderstanding."

"I heard you're a dangerous man, PD-nim," Seokjin says, letting his smile spread on his lips.

Yoongi shrugs and turns back to his monitor. He waves his hand at Seokjin, directing him to the recording booth. "Go on, let's start recording."

Seokjin quickly acquiesces, his light laughter cut off as the booth's soundproof door closes behind him.

Strangely, Yoongi finds his own lips twitching up into a mirrored smile.

Seokjin has trained as an actor and his voice is still transitioning from theatrical delivery to a musical one. It takes many tries, but Yoongi's guidance is precise and Seokjin's persistence is strong, and finally Yoongi has the takes he needs.

Seokjin smiles cutely at him as he leaves, his face bright even with the exhaustion of the session evident in the droop of his eyes. He thanks Yoongi but hesitates at the door before opening it. He turns around to face Yoongi, a sly, amused look in his eyes. "Hey. I can cry on command, you know," he says, laughter somehow working its way into his nearly wrecked voice.

Yoongi pauses, his lips twitching as he realizes the prank Seokjin wants to play. "Yeah?"

"Yeah," Seokjin nods. "It might be funny."

Yoongi shrugs, seemingly nonchalant. "Sure."

Within moments, Seokjin's eyes are sparkling with falling tears, his bottom lip even quivering with it, and for the first time, Yoongi thinks he really sees Seokjin.

He should have known, watching tears swell in Seokjin's eyes, the catch in his throat, the thudding of his heart, he should have known it. It's a bad omen, a twisted prophecy he is too dense to understand.

The last time Yoongi will look at Seokjin, really see him, it will be his turn to cry.

&&&

Yoongi hasn't technically lied about his age, he just never bothered to clarify the assumptions. He's only twenty, but no record label will ever take a kid seriously. He tells them he has a baby face and that he's completed his military service, and they all assume he's in his early thirties. It doesn't really matter anyway, he figures. He's getting jobs and now has steady work at Kelly Inch. He is careful not to break honorifics, never speaking informally to those who mistakenly believe he is older. He forbids anyone from calling him "hyung", strictly enforcing the title of Min PD. Most of the idols that work with him, as a consequence, find him cold, ruthless, and arrogant. Yoongi doesn't care much. He's making music and getting paid. The misunderstanding seems to work for him.

Of course, he thinks later, of course it would be Seokjin who discovers his little secret, the only idol who has dared to tease the formidable Min PD.

The CEO of Kelly Inch took them all out for pork belly and drinks after the successful E.L. comeback. He drank, yes, but he can handle his alcohol intake. His lips were sealed and the entire dinner passed without a hint of his real age, despite pointed questions like "what zodiac year are you?"

He's already outside, cold air hitting his skin, waiting for his turn to hail a taxi, when he realizes his wallet is not in his back pocket where it should be.

He heads back inside the restaurant to the long table that's been mostly cleared of its occupants. The only member of their party that remains is Kim Seokjin, leaning back with his hands supporting his posture on the floor. One of his legs is kicked out in front of him, the other tucked underneath his thigh. There's a pink flush from the alcohol warming his cheeks, and he's singing idly to himself, moving his head with the melody. He grins when he sees Yoongi approach the table.

"PD-nim," he greets cheerfully, tilting his head. "Back for another drink?"

"I left my wallet," Yoongi replies, frowning.

Seokjin lifts a hand from behind him and points down the table to where Yoongi had been sitting earlier. "It's over there. I've been guarding it for you." He laughs to himself, the alcohol obviously taking affect in his system.

Yoongi grabs his wallet, checking the contents.

"Yah!" Seokjin calls. Yoongi's head shoots up but the scolding on his tongue at the informal language dies when he sees Seokjin's pouting face. "I didn't take anything. 'M not a thief."

Yoongi smirks and shrugs. "You can't trust anyone in this world." Satisfied that all his belongings are in place, he tucks his wallet into his back pocket. He gestures to Seokjin. "Come on, I'll get you a cab."

Seokjin smiles and hefts himself up, a little unsteady on his feet but he recovers quickly. "Such a gentleman."

Yoongi comes around to help Seokjin walk to the entrance of the restaurant, his arm slinging around Seokjin's surprisingly slim waist. Yoongi thinks suddenly that Seokjin hides a lot. His waist under baggy clothes, and his teasing, light personality under the company-directed guise of a cold demeanor. Yoongi doesn't really envy the life of an idol.

"You know," Seokjin says conversationally, pulling Yoongi from his thoughts. "When you said you were born in the year of the rooster, I thought" – he hiccups – " we all thought you meant, like, eighty-one." He laughs. "But it's actually ninety-three."

Yoongi freezes, eyes widening in panic, his fingers tightening their hold on Seokjin's waist in alarm. "How –"

"I saw your license, Yoon-gi-yah," Seokjin sing-songs, highly amused.

Yoongi sighs. "What's it going to take to keep this new found knowledge a secret?" he asks, already trying to work his way out of this problem.

Seokjin blinks, his lips tilting down into a frown. "I wasn't planning on telling anyone." He grins. "But if you're offering a bribe, I want steak."

"Right now?"

Seokjin scowls at him. "No, not right now, I just ate." He relaxes into a smile, the corners of his eyes crinkling with it. "I will be in touch, Yoongi-yah." He detaches himself from Yoongi and makes his way into a waiting cab. Just before the car pulls away, he slides the window down and pops his head out. "Thank you for the taxi," he says before very seriously bringing his hand to his lips. He holds his fingers there for a moment and then dramatically flings an imaginary kiss in Yoongi's direction. He giggles to himself as the car finally pulls away, highly amused by his prank.

Yoongi is left on the side of the street trying to comprehend the events that just transpired. He clears his throat and brings a hand up to tug at his beanie, a smile that seems to be reserved solely for Kim Seokjin breaking out onto his lips.

&&&

Seokjin somehow procures Yoongi's phone number and what starts out as them trying to arrange a day to eat out turns into Seokjin sending animated emojis and outrageous puns periodically throughout the day. Yoongi is forced to admit, quietly and to himself, that he looks forward to the notifications. They are a fresh breath of air after countless hours immersed in a song, a vitamin boost that even Namjoon is starting to notice. His co-producer will smile teasingly at him, his eyebrows raised in expectation that Yoongi quickly squashes.

"What?" he huffs, locking his phone and turning it face down on the table.

Namjoon smiles and shrugs, returning back to his laptop.

Yoongi eyes him for a moment, wary, slowly going back to his own monitor with narrowed eyes.

"You know," Namjoon says when Yoongi thinks they've returned to comfortable silence, "if you want whoever is texting you to continue, you should try replying back." He grins but refuses to look at Yoongi, completely missing the withering glare Yoongi is sending him.

"Who says I want them to keep texting me?"

"Then don't reply," Namjoon says, unconcerned.

Yoongi frowns and flips his phone face-up on the desk. He unlocks the screen and stares at the last received message from Seokjin, a terrible joke about a cow's laughter. He blinks, trying to think up how to reply. He has too much pride to laugh – it's not that funny. He purses his lips and picks up his phone, swivelling in his chair and thinking.

He jumps when his phone buzzes, a new message from Seokjin appearing.

I'm free tonight. I'll come by around eight?

Yoongi doesn't even need to look in Namjoon's direction to see him eyeing him with amused interest.

Yoongi types a quick okay and tosses his phone to the end of the desk, shoving his headphones over his ears, studiously drowning out Namjoon's snickering.

&&&

Dinner with Seokjin is like everything involving him, engaging and easy and addictive. He carries most of the conversation and smiles appreciatively when Yoongi replies. Seokjin makes happy noises as he chews, and tries to explain the taste to Yoongi even when Yoongi eats the exact same thing. It doesn't seem to matter to Seokjin, and Yoongi finds he doesn't much mind either. They are vastly different in personality, of this Yoongi is certain. But all the same, somehow, Yoongi knows he's never met someone with such a likeness of mind as himself. Their mannerisms and quirks are the opposite, yet still it feels like something invisible, unseen, unheard between the two of them fits, perfectly sliding into place. Yoongi thinks he even understands the meaning of words he's used his whole life better now. Excitement. Peace. Happiness. He has a deeper understanding for these words, sitting here in a restaurant across from Seokjin.

Dinner, however, ends far too quickly. Soon enough, Yoongi stands at the counter, putting the hefty bill on his credit card.

"So," Yoongi says to Seokjin as they exit the restaurant, the streetlamps dull but still managing to reflect beautifully off of Seokjin's face. "Was this a one-time bribe or is this just the first installment?"

Seokjin studies him for a moment, his eyes flickering with untold thoughts. After a pause, he takes a breath and says slowly, "I guess that all depends on how much you like me."

Yoongi's brow raises. "Oh?"

"Hmm. If you don't like me yet, I may require a few more dinners." He smiles. "But if you do like me, then we don't need an excuse, do we?"

Yoongi tilts his head, eyes focused on Seokjin. "Doesn't that depend on how much you like me, too?"

Seokjin nods. "Yes, but I already know the answer to that."

Yoongi licks his lips and tries to ignore the thumping of his heart. He curls his fingers against the biting cold wind and asks, "What's the answer?"

Seokjin's lips stretch into a wide grin. "I like you a lot, Min Yoongi."

Yoongi's lips bloom into a mirroring grin, his stomach filled with a hundred fluttering butterflies. He reaches forward, wraps his icy-cold fingers gently around Seokjin's equally freezing hand and pulls him softly behind the restaurant into a shadowed alleyway. He glances behind them, carefully scanning to ensure they are truly alone, no lingering photographers, no overly zealous fans. Satisfied that there is not one soul save the two of them, he turns back to Seokjin.

He doesn't even have a chance to lift onto his toes, Seokjin is already bending down, warm breath fanning over his lips the only precursor before their mouths slot together.

Their first kiss is in the cold and the dark, but Yoongi can't help but think it's perfect. No matter how much time passes, he will always be able to pull this moment from his memory with unaltered clarity. The sound of Seokjin's breath hitching. The feel of Seokjin's lips, soft against his chapped ones. The dance of lights behind his eyes, closed at some unknown point. And the knowledge that this is it. Seokjin is it for him. By some lucky happenstance, they found each other early in life.

Yoongi has no reason to doubt this perfect moment. It is the optimism of youth, the folly of a heart not yet tempered.

&&&

Yoongi shifts in the driver's seat of his car, glancing at his watch again, the dial stubbornly ticking the seconds far too slowly. The sun has been up for hours and Yoongi has been up longer, impatience and a giddy anticipation pushing him out of bed before dawn. He showered and dressed and styled his hair before his watch even hit eight in the morning.

He sighs and slumps back in his seat, flicking his gaze to his phone on the passenger's side seat. He purses his lips and taps his fingers on the steering wheel, watching as the small residential street awakens, people rushing out of their homes to some unknown destination. He leans his head back against the headrest and reminds himself that Seokjin said Hoseok would leave the dorm around nine.

Yoongi shares a two-bedroom apartment with three other struggling producers, and Seokjin lives in the dorm with Hyosang, Hoseok, and two managers. Yoongi never cared too much about privacy. He spends most of his time in his studio and has no qualms with kicking everyone out when he needs his space. The problem only forms now, dating Seokjin, secret kisses behind closed studio doors becoming hotter, heavier, more desperate.

They have no chance to be alone together. Seokjin cannot risk going to a hotel, any whiff of a rumor would ruin not just his career but his members' careers as well. On the rare occasions where Yoongi has his apartment to himself, Seokjin is always in a schedule. They're getting a little desperate, and their pledge to not use the studio for that purpose is weakening daily.

Seokjin comes up with the solution. The dorm will clear out for Chuseok, and while he is expected to go home for at least part of the holiday, Seokjin manages to delay his departure for a day. They will have one full day together, alone. Without the managers or the label directors, without interruptions, just them. Yoongi and Seokjin and the air in their lungs.

Yoongi's phone lights up on the passenger's seat and he jerks quickly, snatching it in his hands and sliding his finger on the screen to answer. "Hey," he says, heart thumping hard in his chest, his voice a little too uneven.

"Hey," Seokjin says, his voice just as uneven, a little too breathless to be unaffected. "Hoseokie left five minutes ago. I think the coast is clear."

Yoongi's hand flexes on his phone and he licks his lips. "Okay, I'll park downstairs and be right up."

"Okay," Seokjin replies. "See you soon."

"Un." Yoongi hangs up and shoves his phone into his jacket pocket. He lets out a deep breath and places his hands on the steering wheel, nerves suddenly making them clammy. He tries to remember that this is Seokjin. No big deal. It's Seokjin, with his goofy jokes and squeaky laughter, with his eyes that shine with a hundred thoughts Yoongi desperately wants to know. Yoongi clears his throat and starts the car, his nerves still fluttering through his veins.

He parks in the spot Seokjin told him about, the one the manager usually uses. He shuts off the car and shifts the rearview mirror to check out his hair one last time. He makes a face at the messy strands, reaching up to try to arrange them better. It's been a while since he styled his hair instead of just throwing a beanie over his head and heading outside. He sighs and determines that this is as good as it will get. Yoongi grabs the overnight bag from the backseat and makes his way upstairs to Seokjin's dorm.

He climbs the three flights of stairs to Seokjin's apartment and hesitates in front of his door. He takes a deep, fortifying breath, batting down his nerves, and reaches forward to ring the buzzer.

The door opens within seconds, as if Seokjin had been waiting by the entrance for Yoongi's arrival. Seokjin smiles at him and swings the door open. The sun is streaming in from some window in the living room, a bright light on Seokjin, his features shining. He's dressed in a worn pair of jeans and a large, soft sweatshirt that incredibly manages to drown his broad shoulders.

"Hey," Seokjin greets, stepping back to let Yoongi in.

"Hey," Yoongi says back, smiling at Seokjin. The door clicks closed behind him and he toes off his shoes. Seokjin stands in front of him, not making a move, just watching him, and as the silence drags on, Yoongi's nerves multiple. He flexes his hand on the strap of his overnight bag and glances around the small apartment. He's not sure what to do, if he should suggest they go out to eat first despite the odd hour of the morning. If they should sit down in the living room and watch a movie. If he should unpack his bag.

He looks away from Seokjin and scratches behind his ear, feeling uncharacteristically tense. He clears his throat and starts, "Wou-"

Before the word can fully fall off his tongue, Seokjin steps forward and places his hands on either side of Yoongi's head, cradling it gently and tugging him close. Yoongi's breath chokes in his throat and then Seokjin's lips are on his, firm, seeking. And just like that, the nerves are gone, replaced with the urgency he only feels for Seokjin, the need to be closer, the desire to feel all of him.

Yoongi's eyes flutter shut and he lets his bag drop to the floor, a solid thud that he ignores. He steps closer, hands reaching out to bunch in the excess fabric of Seokjin's sweatshirt. Seokjin steps back, walking backward, pulling Yoongi along into the apartment. They stumble at the couch and Seokjin giggles against Yoongi's lips, though he still refuses to pull back.

Yoongi's fingers crawl under Seokjin's sweatshirt, finding warm, smooth skin. He smiles against Seokjin's lips when Seokjin yelps at the sudden, cool press of his hands on his side. "Where's the bedroom?" he whispers into Seokjin's mouth.

"I'm taking us there," Seokjin answers, inching backwards.

"I don't know if I trust your navigation skills," Yoongi teases. "You almost killed us on the couch."

Seokjin pinches the side of Yoongi's neck in retaliation. "I could stop kissing you," he offers, even as he pecks at the side of Yoongi's mouth.

Yoongi's hand tightens on Seokjin's side. "Not an option."

"Then stop complaining," Seokjin says. His back hits a door and they stumble into a new room.

Yoongi doesn't pull back to peer around the space, just recognizes the blinds are down, casting the room in a dim golden light. Seokjin fists his hands in Yoongi's shirt and pulls. They tumble onto the bottom level of a bunk bed, Seokjin sprawled under Yoongi, their legs tangled. Yoongi lifts up on his hands and looks down at Seokjin, takes in his flushed cheeks and huge grin, the way his eyes shine like diamonds. Yoongi can't breathe but he doesn't really mind, as long as he can stay like this with Seokjin forever.

"Hi," Seokjin whispers, running his hands over Yoongi's shoulders, down his chest.

"Hi," Yoongi repeats, eyes transfixed on Seokjin.

Seokjin stares up at him expectantly, grinning teasingly. "What? Speechless because I'm so handsome?"

"Do you know I love you?" Yoongi says, the words racing out of his mouth. He thinks he's been in love with Seokjin from that first time in the studio, Seokjin's fake tears making his eyes shine.

Seokjin's eyes widen and his mouth parts in surprise. Yoongi realizes he probably should have waited to say it, should have kept the words inside, held them captive in his chest, in that hollow where his heart beats. He should have waited until Seokjin was ready to hear it.

Yoongi leans back on his knees, lifting away from Seokjin. "Ah, sorry, I-"

"I love you too," Seokjin says, sitting up, wonder and happiness radiating from his tone. "I love you," he repeats, wrapping his arms around Yoongi's neck and pulling him back down.

It is, like everything involving Seokjin, perfect.

Their time together passes too quickly, hours melting into minutes, slipping through Yoongi's fingers. The more time he spends with Seokjin, the greedier he becomes, wanting to draw him closer until they meld together. Before they part, Yoongi gives Seokjin his first promise: he's going to make it big, become a huge success so he can get his own place. A place they can start their future together. Seokjin kisses him and Yoongi knows, this is just the beginning.

&&&

Yoongi understands that as an idol, Seokjin has severe restrictions in relationships. They cannot go out on dates like most people their age. They can't hold hands in public, can't be seen together in romantic places. Any form of affection while in public is strictly forbidden. The obvious consequence usually involves sneaking around at the label, making out in Yoongi's studio, dates in the dance practice room. Yoongi and Seokjin, however, do not give in to the temptation. They could easily take advantage of their close proximity everyday with sly kisses and sneaking hands, but Yoongi and Seokjin try to maintain a strictly professional attitude at the company. It isn't enough, apparently.

It happens when all the members of E.L. are in the recording studio for the comeback. Even if Yoongi didn't see the drained and tense set to Seokjin's expression, he would have been able to sense the discord within the group. None of the members joke around like they usually do. Hoseok, usually the loudest mood maker, is silent, answering Yoongi in short statements, a wary edge to his tone. His eyes keep flickering between Yoongi and Seokjin, piercing and evaluating. It's disconcerting.

Hyosang, however, is openly insubordinate and obtuse. Any direction Yoongi gives him is scoffed at and ignored.

Yoongi lets the first derisive dismissal go, but when he sees he will not be getting what he wants from Hyosang for the track, he says into the speaker to the members in the booth, "Do we have a problem?"

The three glance at each other awkwardly and Yoongi arches a brow. "Then do as I fucking say."

Hyosang rolls his eyes and says into the microphone so Yoongi can hear, "I guess it's just me and Hoseok that get scolded. Wonder why."

Seokjin clenches his teeth together and says quietly but firmly, "He's corrected all of us. You're the only one with a problem."

"Is anyone allowed to get special privileges or is it just the pretty ones?" Hyosang spits out, eyes locked with Yoongi's through the glass.

Yoongi's simmering concern at the obvious tension boils over into bubbling anger. He sets his jaw and orders, "All of you get out here. Now."

Hoseok slips into the room, his face taut and tired. Seokjin follows behind, his expression composed but Yoongi can see the anger in the press of his lips together, can hear it in the rhythm of his breathing. Hyosang saunters in last, arms crossed and defiance in his every movement.

"What is going on?" Yoongi demands, eyeing all three of them.

"Last night they found out –" Seokjin starts but Hyosang quickly interrupts him.

"I found out Seokjin's sleeping with you." He scoffs. "You gonna give him a solo album? Is that why you keep rejecting my lyrics?"

Yoongi takes a slow, cautious breath. Not for his sake, but for the plea of patience that Seokjin silently sends him. "It's true that Seokjin and I are dat-"

"That's a nice word for what's happening," Hyosang interjects.

Yoongi's expression hardens. "Whatever the fuck you think, my feelings for Seokjin are real."

Hyosang flinches momentarily, something flickering through his eyes too quickly to read, before he recovers his composure once more. "Whatever." He turns on his heel and storms to the door.

"Where are you going?" Hoseok calls out. "We have to record!"

"Fuck off!"

Hoseok's lips thin together and he takes a deep, fortifying breath. "I told you, hyung," he says, turning to Seokjin, his tone low and frightening. "It doesn't matter until it affects the group."

"My relationship with Yoongi has never distracted me," Seokjin says firmly. "I've never let it interfere with the group activities and you know it."

Hoseok looks between Yoongi and Seokjin. "It's interfering now." He sighs and rubs his hand over his face. "Just – let's fix this before it gets out of control, okay?" He sighs again and heads to the door. "I'll be in the practice room. Come get me when Hyosang-hyung cools down."

It's not until the door clicks shut behind Hoseok that Seokjin's bravado crumbles and he lets out a shaky breath. Yoongi frowns and reaches for Seokjin's hand, pulling him down onto the couch.

"Are you okay, hyung?" he asks, thumb rubbing circles over Seokjin's hand.

"Yeah, it's...." He sighs and leans his head back onto the couch cushions. "It was a really rough night."

Yoongi frowns at their hands, an icy thought of apprehension nudging at his mind. "Do you – " He licks his lips and squeezes Seokjin's hand a little too tightly, somehow forcing the words he doesn't want to say onto his tongue. "While you sort this through, do you need a break? From us?"

Seokjin shifts suddenly. He pulls at Yoongi's hand until Yoongi relents and moves to settle flush against Seokjin's side. "Yoongi. Look at me."

Yoongi glances up, sees Seokjin's expression soften, a small smile gracing his lips.

"I love you. No matter what happens, that will never change." His smile widens, the edges of his eyes creasing with it. "It'll take more than a little opposition to make me let go of you. Hmm?"

Yoongi's lips twitch into an almost-smile and he nods, satisfied. He settles both of them back against the cushions. "I'm going to cut all of Hyosang's lines. Make the album a subunit with you and Hoseok."

Seokjin snorts.

"We can call you Big Seok and Little Seok."

"Shut up, Yoongi," Seokjin says, his tone fond, and Yoongi knows they'll make it through this.

&&&

Just like Seokjin always manages to do, he somehow settles Hyosang's ire and the three-member group is back in the studio within a day. Yoongi puts every hour in the day into making the album the best it could possibly be, for his own benefit as well as for Seokjin's He promised Seokjin this album will hit it big and he intends to keep his vows.

At a certain point, he has to release the album and it's all up to E.L. now and their promotions. The night before the album drops, Seokjin sneaks out of last-minute dance practice and visits Yoongi in his studio. He takes Yoongi's face in his hands, presses their lips together firmly, and swears he's going to make this album everything Yoongi hoped for. Yoongi doesn't see Seokjin for weeks after that, only catching glimpses of him on television – music shows, variety guestings, news blurbs. Seokjin hardly even has a chance to reply to his messages. Yoongi misses him, but he knows this is life in the idol world. Soon, Seokjin will be back in his arms, soon Yoongi will inhale his sweet scent. Soon he'll hear the soft, comforting rhythm of his breathing against his ear.

In the meantime, Yoongi's royalties come through. It's enough to make him count the zeros in the number, just to be certain of the magnitude. The very first expense Yoongi indulges in is a one-year lease on a decent studio apartment. His very own place. Private and secure and a fulfillment of the promise he made to Seokjin. He knows with a bubbling, excited certainty that it's only the beginning of a lifetime of promises he will keep.

He's looking through furniture stores online, trying to pick out a new bed, when he overhears one of E.L.'s managers with a director from the label outside his studio.

"His flu is just getting worse, he needs to rest," the manager says, tone insistent, volume rising with urgency.

The director sighs. "I know, but he can't miss the schedules. There's only three of them, I can't have an entire third of the group missing."

Worry makes Yoongi's fingers curl tight around his phone, his heart thumping icy concern through his blood. The last time he talked to Seokjin – an aborted, one-minute conversation over the phone – he thought Seokjin sounded off. But Seokjin had assured him he was fine. Stupidly, Yoongi had believed him. He should know better by now, how Seokjin only shows what he wants people to see. A liar with a gentle heart, pretending everything is fine.

He sets his lips in a grim line and stands from his chair, slipping into the hallway and interrupting the conversation. "I need Seokjin to come in for a part," he says to the director.

The director's eyebrows raise in surprise. "The album's done?"

He rolls his eyes. "The next album. If you want to capitalize on their success, we'll need a new comeback soon."

The manager eyes Yoongi, clearly displeased but unable to voice his true thoughts. "Seokjin-ah isn't in the best condition right now – "

"As soon as possible," Yoongi says, ignoring the well-meaning manager. "Today. It's urgent."

The director sighs heavily and nods, pulling out his phone. "I guess I could pull him from the store opening."

Within an hour, there's a knock on Yoongi's studio door. He glances up from his monitor at the noise. "Come in, it's unlocked."

Seokjin opens the door slowly and steps inside. His face is too pale and swollen, his eyes red and tired. Yoongi's jaw clenches, angry that Seokjin's usually healthy glow was allowed to deteriorate to such an extent.

Seokjin attempts a smile and waves at Yoongi, pretending like he's perfectly fine. "Hi, PD-nim." The guise shatters as Seokjin sneezes, his eyes watering and a tired groan escaping his lips.

Yoongi scowls. "Get on the couch," he orders.

Seokjin smirks and wiggles his eyebrows, slowly heading to the couch. "Oh, sexy. It's that kind of meeting, I see," he jokes, coughing at the end of his sentence, his smile fading from his lips into a grimace.

Yoongi's expression hardens further, and he grabs the bag of cold and flu medicine he collected at the pharmacy earlier. "Do I look like I'm in a good mood?"

Seokjin wrinkles his nose and lies down on the couch. "It's just a little flu."

Yoongi ignores him, pulling a blanket over Seokjin's body. "Go to sleep. I'll wake you when you have to go."

Seokjin blinks up at Yoongi, a soft smile breaking on his lips. "Yoongi-yah, did you call me here so I can rest?"

"Yes."

His smile widens and he shifts, making Yoongi sit by his side. "You're really good to me."

Yoongi doesn't reply, threading his fingers through Seokjin's hair. "One day, I'll have my own label. I'm going to sign you and you won't have to work these inhumane hours anymore."

Seokjin lets his eyes drift closed. "Sounds nice. It's a deal."

Yoongi licks his lips. "It's a promise, hyung," he vows, watching Seokjin fall asleep. He carves the promise into his chest, solidifies it, makes it beat with his heart. He's going to give Seokjin the world.

Yoongi is only able to secure three hours for Seokjin, and far too soon, he's shaking Seokjin awake again. Seokjin huffs and nods, slowly sitting up and rubbing his eyes.

"Do you feel better?" he asks, worrying his bottom lip as his fingers help to straighten Seokjin's clothes.

Seokjin coughs and makes a face. "My head feels worse." He sends Yoongi a quick smile. "But my heart feels a thousand times better."

Yoongi scoffs. "You're the worst."

Seokjin shrugs, unconcerned, and moves to stand.

"Jin-ah," Yoongi says, stopping Seokjin. "Wait. I have something."

Seokjin looks at him curiously and Yoongi studiously ignores his gaze.

He reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a set of keys, shoving them against Seokjin's chest. "Here."

Seokjin's brow furrows in confusion. He reaches up to catch the keys, staring at them in the palm of his hand. "What – "

"I got an apartment. It's small, and there's no furniture yet but," Yoongi takes a breath, finally glancing up at Seokjin, his mouth open in surprise, his eyes wide with happiness. Yoongi's lips stretch into a smile. "I promised you, a place all my own. A place we can be together." He leans forward and motions for Seokjin to lean down. Seokjin complies easily and Yoongi smiles, bending forward to place a chaste kiss on Seokjin's forehead. "I'm going to keep all my promises to you, Seokjin."

He thinks he sees Seokjin grinning before he envelopes him in a tight hug, and Yoongi's eyes drift closed as he inhales deeply, imprinting this moment onto his soul.

&&&

During the all-too-brief downtime between comebacks, Seokjin practically moves in with Yoongi. They still hardly see each other. Yoongi is always secluded in his studio and Seokjin is off on schedules or practice. Now, however, there are moments when they overlap, two hours in the dead of the night, three hours in the early evening. Sometimes they are fortunate enough to find themselves together for an entire afternoon. It's not enough. It's not nearly enough, but Yoongi is still deliriously happy. He knows Seokjin is too.

Bit by bit, he finds Seokjin taking over the small space, his presence heavy and invading even when he is absent. Seokjin's skincare products take over the bathroom counter. Seokjin buys supplies for the kitchen, brings in ridiculous figurines that he has the audacity to call "art".

"It's Mario," Yoongi points out.

"Mario art. Art," Seokjin insists.

Yoongi's favorite, though, is the corner of the room by the bed where Seokjin keeps his guitar. Every time he catches a glance of the instrument, a warm, bubbling feeling spreads across his entire chest. Clothes and toiletries can be bought, replaced, spread everywhere, but the guitar means home. The guitar means Seokjin has made his home with Yoongi.

It's in this perfect contentment that things, as they are wont to do, inevitably begin to break. If Yoongi had known how events were to transpire, he would have deleted the offending email the moment he read it. If he had known, he would have done many things differently. Regret, however, only shows its wisdom too late, when there is no turning back. It waits in silence for the folly of youth.

Yoongi receives an email from two DJs in Los Angeles. They heard his mixtape and are highly interested in a collaboration. It would be a three-month project, based in Los Angeles.

"They're really famous in the States," he tells Seokjin. They are sitting face-to-face in the bed - their bed, the sheets rumpled and messy around their limbs, pillows strewn haphazardly across the floor save the one Seokjin is holding in his lap, playing with the edges. Yoongi reaches over and takes Seokjin's hand from the pillow, holds his hand in his, long fingers skimming the dips and angles of Seokjin's. "And they want to work with me." He locks his gaze with Seokjin, watching him carefully for any hesitations, any signs of distress.

But Seokjin just grins at him, excitement and pride sparkling in his eyes. "This is amazing! I'm so proud of you."

"It's okay? I'll have to live in Los Angeles for three months," Yoongi clarifies. He wants this so badly, but he wants to keep Seokjin just as much. He wants it all, everything, and he hasn't yet learnt he cannot have it. He is still young enough to think impossible choices are anything but myths and excuses made up by the bitterness of age.

"You really want this, right?" Seokjin asks.

Yoongi nods, can't help the grin on his face, the wide, uncontrollable kind where he knows his gums are showing. "It's my dream."

"Then it's my dream, too." Seokjin tilts his head and leans forward to peck at Yoongi's lips quickly. "It's only three months. If we can't handle three months apart, then we really don't have any hope."

Yoongi rises onto his knees and tips forward, tackling Seokjin to lie flat on the bed. Seokjin erupts in laughter but Yoongi is too busy peppering his face with kisses. "I love you. I love you. I love you."

&&&

As happy and excited as Yoongi is to go to Los Angeles, to live and work and produce there among those making huge advances in the music world, and as happy and proud as Seokjin is for Yoongi to take this opportunity, their parting is still difficult. It is a heavy, aching kind of parting, too many "just-one-more" kisses, too many smiles that start genuine before they simmer and fade until they have to hold them by force of will instead of any real happiness. They promise to talk as much as possible, by phone, by text, by email. Seokjin promises he will rest when he can and Yoongi promises he will remember to eat. Finally, despite all the lingering hands and echoed I'll-miss-you's, they part. Yoongi boards his plane and then he's gone.

Los Angeles is exhilarating and mundane all at once. There are so many opportunities, so many musicians and songwriters and record labels to meet. The studio Yoongi works at has the latest equipment, new and expensive and powerful. Still, Yoongi works the same as he always does. Just him, in front of his laptop with his notebook and pen by his side. Work will always be work and music doesn't change no matter his location. It's still in his heart, in his soul, he still has to find that magic spell that draws the thought out of his mind and into something real.

Yoongi would be content to stay forever in this studio and make the songs he wants to make, but there is one thing missing. One person not present who he longs for.

He misses Seokjin desperately. Even misses just his presence, that comforting knowledge, that sense that he's there, close by. They share brief phone calls at odd hours. Yoongi talks about the people he meets, the songs he's working on. Seokjin tells him about his upcoming acting debut, how his labelmate Jaehwan helped him prepare for the role. It feels like Seokjin is living an entirely new life without him, a growing closeness with Jaehwan, a new career direction. Yoongi wants to be there for all of it. He's afraid of the distance. He needs to be there with Seokjin. He needs to slide his fingers through Seokjin's hair. He needs to lay his ear on Seokjin's chest, hear the rhythm of his heartbeat. An existence without Seokjin is a hollow, aching, throbbing pain that Yoongi has no will or desire to live through. He counts down the days until they are reunited.

One week before his flight back to Seoul – back to him, back to Seokjin – a label invites Yoongi to go to New York. He would have his own studio fully equipped with the best technology, he could make his own music with the promise of artistic freedom. It's a dream. It would be folly to turn it down. And it would mean at least a year without Seokjin.

Yoongi asks for some time to think it over, even when he knows the answer.

He hardly made it through three months separated from Seokjin. He isn't willing to try it for a year.

&&&

Seokjin wants to pick Yoongi up at the airport but they're both afraid of fans and reporters finding out and asking questions. They reluctantly agree that Seokjin will meet Yoongi at the apartment when he arrives.

The plane ride is long and exhausting, immigration drags on, and the cab ride from the airport to his apartment is dreadful, but the moment he opens his door and Seokjin envelopes him in a tight hug, it all melts away. Yoongi closes his eyes and buries his face into Seokjin's neck, breathing him in, breathing this moment into his lungs.

"I missed you," Seokjin mumbles into Yoongi's hair, walking them backwards in the general direction of the bed. His arms tighten around Yoongi's back. "I missed you every day."

"Yeah." Yoongi presses his lips against Seokjin's neck. "Me too."

Seokjin miraculously navigates them to the bed and they tumble down into the sheets, still holding each other close, both of them unwilling to let go. The separation was too long, too tough.

Seokjin straddles Yoongi, planting lingering kisses down Yoongi's jaw, murmuring sweet words as he goes. I love you, I missed you, I love you, I love you.

He wants this forever, wants Seokjin for his entire life. Yoongi tightens his hold on Seokjin and promises himself quietly, he's never letting this go. He has no idea there are some promises he cannot keep.

&&&

The record label from New York sends Yoongi a follow-up email. They already talked to Kelly Inch and arrangements can be made to release him from his contract with them. The new label is willing to pay to acquire him. It's mind-blowing.

He stares at the email seriously, re-reading the words over and over, swivelling in his chair side-to-side. He glances around his studio, at the cracks in the paint, the years-old equipment, frayed wires taped together with duct tape. There are tears in the couch in the corner of the room, the lighting flickers and no one has been able to fix it yet. It's stifling in the summer and freezing in the winter. It doesn't make his music any worse, but it does strike him, the vast difference between how minimally Kelly Inch invests in him and how he was treated in Los Angeles. How he would be treated in New York. He turns back to stare at his computer, the words in the email imprinting behind his eyelids. He thinks about all the tracks on his hard drive, all the tracks Kelly Inch said are too risky, too different, not the sound they want. He thinks about the creative license New York promises him. The offer is everything he wants. Everything, except for one devastating omission.

New York doesn't have Seokjin.

Yoongi's thoughts are jarred at a knock on his door. He minimizes his email and calls out, "Come in."

Hoseok appears, smiling when he sees Yoongi. "Hi, hyung. Welcome back," he greets, shutting the door behind him.

Yoongi smiles and waves Hoseok to sit down. "Have you been well? I heard you're going to start a sublabel?"

Hoseok brightens at the mention of his new endeavor, Hope Music. They talk about production for a while, style and their own visions for the future, the impact they hope to make.

When the topic fades, Hoseok's expression turns pensive and he says quietly, "Hyung." He pauses, his eyebrows furrowing with the weight of his thoughts.

"Hmm?" Yoongi encourages, waiting for Hoseok to continue.

Hoseok's lips turn down into a frown and he finally says, his eyes flickering to Yoongi, "About you and Seokjin-hyung...."

Yoongi stills, wariness curling his fingers into fists on his chair arms. He's never asked Hoseok if he supports the relationship, but he'd always thought, hoped that Hoseok look on it favorably. His friendship means a lot to Yoongi, and even more to Seokjin. Yoongi remains silent, waiting.

"It's really none of my business," Hoseok continues.

"Are you against it?" Yoongi ventures, his voice tipping into cold numbness.

"No. No, of course not," Hoseok replies emphatically. "You guys love each other. Everyone can see that."

Yoongi arches his brows, expectant.

"That's the problem. Everyone can see it."

Yoongi frowns. "We're discreet."

"It doesn't matter." Hoseok sighs and rubs his hand over his face. "I'm just trying to warn you, because you're my friend. Because Seokjin is my friend." He drops his hand and stares seriously at Yoongi. "There are those who don't like your relationship. Be careful of that."

Ice runs through Yoongi's veins, Hoseok's words arresting the beat of his heart. He will not lose Seokjin, he promises himself, urgently, desperately.

In the depths of his regret – later, much later, after years and seasons have had their chance to shape his heart and mind, to bring them closer to one accord, and reason is allowed to emerge again – he will later recognize this moment as the origin of his folly. A little prudence, a modicum of patience may have very well saved him. But he is young and in love, desperately so. Prudence has no place in his heart.

When Hoseok leaves, Yoongi opens his email again. He composes a polite response, declining the offer, and sends it off before he even has a chance to re-read it.

He will stay with Seokjin here, make a name for himself here.

And that small, fleeting thought that started in Los Angeles, that thought that reappeared when he held Seokjin again, that thought that has been expanding steadily in his chest, he finally entertains it seriously. He is certain he will spend the rest of his life with Seokjin. He is certain Seokjin wants the same thing.

He doesn't know what they're waiting for anymore.

&&&

Yoongi goes home – his home, the one he made with Seokjin, the one with Seokjin's guitar in the corner of their bed. He waits for Seokjin to finish filming for the day, watches the sun sink beneath the horizon and the sky grow steadily darker, the night growing thicker. He doesn't have flowers. He doesn't have a cake. No decorations, no candlelight, no ring. He has all his hopes, all his promises, and all his love. It's always been enough for Seokjin. It's always been enough, he reassures himself.

Yoongi doesn't sleep, laying down on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. He listens for Seokjin's key in the lock, humming a melody he hasn't fully formed yet under his breath. It's just past one in the morning when Yoongi finally hears the sweet click of the apartment door.

"Yoongi?" Seokjin calls out, spotting Yoongi on the bed. He looks tired but still so beautiful, his hair messy and his eyes drooping with fatigue. He toes off his shoes and shuffles to the bed, dropping his bag on the floor on the way. "Why're you still up?"

Yoongi sits up and inches forward, waving at Seokjin to sit on the bed facing him. Seokjin mutters about wanting to shower and change his clothes first but doesn't resist as Yoongi softly pulls him down to join him on the bed. "Seokjin-ah," he starts, measuring his breath, rolling the spinning, chaotic thoughts to his tongue and hoping they explain the magnitude of his heart. "I love you."

Seokjin chuckles and pokes at Yoongi's chest. "You stayed up all night to tell me that?"

"No, I stayed up all night to ask you to marry me," Yoongi answers without anymore preamble, the flimsy filter on his thoughts broken, the flood in his heart spilling out.

Seokjin freezes, his eyes widening, his expression growing neutral, indifferent like he always does when his emotions run too deep.

Yoongi shuffles forward and takes Seokjin's hands in his. He peers up at Seokjin, tilting his head so their eyes meet. "I want to marry you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you." Seokjin's fingers twitch in Yoongi's and he squeezes them in reassurance. "You're it for me. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this, that us, we're going to last forever. Why are we waiting?"

Seokjin's mouth opens and closes a few times, his eyes flickering over Yoongi's face. He makes a strangled noise in the back of his throat. "Yoongi, you're only twenty-two," he starts.

Yoongi squeezes Seokjin's hands again. "I'm twenty-one and I want to be with you now, and at twenty-three, and twenty-four. At twenty-five. When I'm thirty. When I'm fifty. When I'm too old to know my age. That is never going to change." He keeps his eyes steady on Seokjin's. "Will it change for you?"

"No!" Seokjin's brow furrows. "No, of course not. I will always love you."

Yoongi grins and shifts closer, until his knees bump Seokjin's thigh. "We're practically living together anyway. So, what do you say? Will you marry me?"

Seokjin's expression brightens but something flickers in his eyes, a hesitation, a doubt. He glances down and purses his lips.

Yoongi frowns. "What? What is it?"

Seokjin glances up again and studies Yoongi's face carefully. He inhales and says slowly, cautiously, "Before. When you were in Los Angeles."

Yoongi fights the urge to freeze in panic. "What about Los Angeles?"

"It's just that. Jaehwan gave me the impression that they gave you an offer in the States. To work with them." He flexes his fingers in Yoongi's grip. "You cannot give that opportunity up for me," he insists.

Yoongi swallows the lump in his throat, fear that he may lose Seokjin making his heart beat too fast, too hard. "He was wrong," Yoongi lies, keeping his expression firm and praying he can convince Seokjin. "They just wanted me for the three months. Nothing more."

Seokjin seems to waver, his eyes searching Yoongi's.

Yoongi smiles at Seokjin. "I'm not stupid. I'm not giving anything up for you."

"Really?"

Yoongi laughs and rolls his eyes. "Yes, really!"

Seokjin's lips break into a grin. "Okay."

"Okay?" Yoongi prompts, hopeful.

"Okay, I'll marry you," he replies fondly.

Yoongi grins as Seokjin launches himself into Yoongi's arms, kissing every spot of skin he can find.

It is only a small lie. It means nothing. Yoongi isn't really giving anything up. He knows he'll make his own way, with Seokjin by his side.

It's only a small lie, he reassures himself, too foolish to understand that big things start very small.

&&&

The beginning of the end is heralded in by a simple knock on Yoongi's studio door, three days after the engagement. Yoongi saves his work and swivels in his chair, calling out, "It's open."

The door opens and one of the label's assistants appears, biting his lip, his shoulders tense and eyes refusing to meet Yoongi's. "The CEO wants to see you," he says.

Yoongi frowns. The CEO doesn't usually meet with Yoongi except for concept discussions, and those are generally planned weeks in advance. He turns around to lock his computer and stands, following the assistant to the top floor of the building. The assistant halts once they reach the door to the CEO's office. He makes a gesture for Yoongi to proceed.

He does not truly have any expectations, his mind blank and struggling to catch up to the oddity of the past two minutes, but when he enters the grand office, the sight that greets him is far beyond anything he could have imagined. The CEO has his elbows on his desk, his fingers steepled together. His lips are etched into a deep frown and a vein in his forehead bulges, his face an angry red. The CEO is fuming. And across from him, sitting with his back rigid and shoulders tense, is Seokjin. His jaw is clenched tight, lips pressed firmly together, hands clasped in his lap, his knuckles white from how hard he's holding them together. Yoongi doesn't know what is happening but he's pissed.

Seokjin glances at Yoongi, his eyebrows furrowing, silently trying to ease the anger already streaming like poison in his veins.

"What the fuck is going on?" Yoongi demands.

"That's what I want to know," the CEO seethes. "Sit down."

Yoongi turns to Seokjin. " You okay?"

Seokjin nods. "I'm fine." He extends his hand. "Sit." Seokjin waits until Yoongi takes the seat beside him before he says, "I told Hoseok and Hyosang about our engagement last night."

And suddenly everything makes sense. Seokjin told his members – out of respect, out of happiness, out of trust – and Hyosang ran and tattled to the CEO. The CEO, it seems, does not approve.

"The fucking engagement," the CEO spits out. "You're an idol. You're not even allowed to date."

Yoongi's jaw clicks, his teeth grinding together as he attempts to remain calm. "With all due respect, Seokjin's professional life is separate from his personal one."

"Not in this industry," the CEO replies. He turns to Seokjin. "How long has this been going on?"

Seokjin frowns and glances at Yoongi.

"How long?" the CEO repeats more firmly.

"A little over a year," Seokjin answers.

"What would you have done if Dispatch caught you? Or a fan?"

"We weren't caught," Yoongi interjects. "We were careful."

The CEO ignores him and continues to scold Seokjin. "It's not just your career on the line. If you go down, E.L. goes down with you. This label goes down with you. You're selfishly ruining the lives of countless people."

Seokjin's lips press harder together.

"I thought you took this seriously."

"I do!" Seokjin answers, his voice wavering as the words push past his lips.

"You don't, or you'd never risk this."

"You don't own his life!" Yoongi yells.

"The contract he signed says I do!"

Yoongi moves to stand but Seokjin reaches out and pulls him back into his seat. He sends a glare in Seokjin's direction but Seokjin motions for him to calm down. Yoongi exhales sharply and shifts in his chair, fuming.

"How many other of my artists are you fucking?" the CEO directs at Yoongi.

"Fuck you," Yoongi spits out.

"Exc-"

"It's just me," Seokjin interjects. His hand squeezes Yoongi's forearm, a warning for patience. "It's just me, and we're not going public. We were never going to go public. Our relationship doesn't change anything."

"You're going to break up," the CEO orders, eyeing both of them. "Immediately."

Seokjin's jaw drops open. "You can't – "

Yoongi grabs Seokjin's hand. "No. We're not."

"You will if you want to remain employed. You will if you ever want to work in this industry again."

"I'm not letting Seokjin go," Yoongi seethes.

"Get the fuck out of my building," the CEO says. "You're fired."

Seokjin's eyes widen. "Wai-"

The CEO glares at Seokjin. "If you know what's good for you, you'll break up. I'm giving you until tomorrow to fix this or your contract is terminated as well. Explain that to Hoseok and Hyosang."

Yoongi pulls Seokjin out of his seat, entwining their fingers together and squeezing in reassurance. "Come on, Seokjin."

He pulls Seokjin from the room, and storms down the concrete stairwell, directing them to his studio. His mind races with plans and people he needs to call, his thoughts already forming into a knotted, tangled mess. He hardly realizes that Seokjin is calling his name, telling him to wait.

"Yoongi, listen to me!" Seokjin nearly yells, his voice amplified and echoing off the walls of the dull, grey stairwell.

Yoongi stops on the landing a floor above his studio, and turns to look at Seokjin. He only realizes now that his breathing is coming in heavy huffs.

"Yoongi, you have to calm down."

"I'm not going to give you up because that bastard wants to control our lives," Yoongi says. He reaches for Seokjin's other hand, an urgent need to touch Seokjin, to connect with him driving his actions.

Seokjin's eyebrows furrow in distress. "He fired you, Yoongi."

"Doesn't matter. Only you matter. I can work anywhere," Yoongi says quickly. He can't lose Seokjin, not over something so trivial, so stupid, so foreign and external.

"He's going to blacklist you!" Seokjin's voice cracks and trembles, his eyes starting to water.

"Hey," Yoongi says, tone immediately softening, comforting, trying to ease the distress in Seokjin. He steps closer to Seokjin, takes one of his hands from Seokjin's and reaches up to gently caress the side of his neck. "I'll be okay, Seokjin."

Seokjin shakes his head. "How?"

"As long as I have you by my side, I'll be okay." Yoongi squeezes Seokjin's hand. "Don't let that asshole rip us apart. It's you and me, right? We'll figure it out."

Seokjin stares at him, a hundred thoughts flying through his eyes, and Yoongi has a brief, red flash of dread that warns him to read them carefully, to know them all intimately, lest they grow into monsters in Seokjin's mind.

"It's you and me, right?" Yoongi says again, smiling softly.

Seokjin hesitates for a moment before he nods. "Of course."

"You're not bailing on me because of this little bump, right?"

Seokjin scoffs. "It's a little more than a bump." Yoongi just continues to stare up at him, smiling encouragingly. Seokjin's lips twitch into something closer to a smile than a frown and finally says, "You're stuck with me."

Yoongi's smile widens. "Good."

Seokjin inhales and nods. "Okay. Okay, I'm going to talk to Jaehwan. Maybe he can talk some sense into the CEO."

Yoongi scowls. He would rather Jaehwan stay out of it, but Seokjin trusts him, and that's enough for Yoongi to keep his reservations to himself.

"We're going to be okay," Seokjin says, more for himself than for Yoongi's sake.

"Yeah," Yoongi agrees, ignoring the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. They'll be okay, they'll make it through this together.

Seokjin squeezes his hand one more time before he pulls away and bounds down the stairs. "I'm going to find Jaehwan. I'm sure he can fix this. I'll call you later."

Yoongi watches Seokjin's retreating form. If he had known, if he had even the slightest hint of what was to come, he would have followed Seokjin down. Regret only reveals its perfect clarity too late, a trick, a twisted game of could have, should have, would have. Yoongi hasn't learnt yet, untempered, naive, and blind to the folly of his youth.

&&&

Seokjin doesn't come home that night. Yoongi tries not to worry, but every time his eyes land on the guitar in the corner by their bed, there's a hollow, nauseating lurching from his stomach to his throat. He texts Seokjin first, attempting to be casual, nonchalant, attempting to talk himself out of the worry that's clawing at his ribs.

You still out?

And then, increasingly concerned as it goes unanswered.

When will you be home?"

Are you okay?

Seokjin-ah, I'm worried. Please call me.

The apartment is too quiet without Seokjin. Everything looks dull, unfamiliar. The bed is strange without Seokjin's form huddled under the covers. The small kitchenette is dark and foreboding. The shelves seem foreign, the scattered mess of their items wrong somehow. He needs Seokjin here to make the space bright again. To make it warm.

Halfway through the night, he starts calling Seokjin. There's never an answer, just the taunting sound of the line ringing and then a click as Seokjin's voicemail picks up.

When Seokjin doesn't return by the time the sun starts to rise, Yoongi can't stand to stay in the apartment anymore. He grabs his keys and heads to Seokjin's dorm, determined to find him. This is the time he and Seokjin need to stick together, to unite and find strength and comfort in each other. Separation will only make getting through this more difficult.

No matter how long or how hard Yoongi bangs on Seokjin's door, however, there is no answer. Not even one of the managers or Hoseok. They've cleared out. It might be as innocuous as a sudden schedule or practice but Yoongi is sure it is more dreadful than that. The sinking feeling in his stomach from earlier is back, and this time, he cannot ignore it. A part of him knows, it's already too late.

He heads back to his apartment and has a too-brief, too-bright, too-achingly painful moment of relief when he finds Seokjin, here, home, returned back to him and their future. Until Yoongi sees the red rimming Seokjin's eyes, sees the way his jaw trembles, sees the suitcase on the bed already nearly full. Yoongi's eyes flick around the space, quickly assessing the sudden absence of Seokjin, his clothes, his figurines, his computer. The sharpest blow, Yoongi thinks, the one that knocks the breath out of his lungs, leaves him dizzy, swaying on his feet to keep his balance, is Seokjin's guitar. It is no longer in the corner by their bed, but placed safely in the case Seokjin never uses, dust still clinging to the dark sides.

Seokjin is moving out.

"What is this?" Yoongi demands, surprised that his voice is so steady, deceitfully calm. It feels disjointed from his body, like he's listening to the radio instead of his own words. Like he's watching someone else's life break down.

Seokjin's hands pauses over his suitcase. He looks down, places a shirt in the luggage and inhales slowly. "We need to talk."

"You're moving out?" Yoongi stares at Seokjin in disbelief, incredulous. "You're giving up on us?"

Seokjin sighs heavily, refusing to look at Yoongi. He flips the top of his suitcase closed, fingers focused on zipping it up.

"You said we were in this together. You said you loved me!" Yoongi continues, storming closer to Seokjin. "We're getting married, Seokjin. You're just throwing all that away?"

"We don't have a choice, Yoongi," Seokjin answers, finally looking up and meeting Yoongi's eyes. There are dark circles under his eyes, fatigue and misery evident on every inch of his face.

Yoongi steps closer, close enough that he can reach out for Seokjin, fingers wrapping gently around Seokjin's arm. He inhales deeply and tries to calm his pounding heart, tries to keep his voice steady and find the right words. "We do have a choice. Seokjin-ah, listen. I know it looks bad but just have a little faith. Trust me, okay? Trust in me."

Seokjin's eyes flicker and Yoongi thinks again that there is so much that Seokjin doesn't show him, doesn't tell anyone. He wishes he had enough time to interpret it all, to study Seokjin for years, to sink a little deeper into Seokjin's mind, Seokjin's heart, to attach himself so firmly to him that even the thought of separation would be impossible. Seokjin's chin tilts up, the line of his lips hardens, and Yoongi knows. Seokjin wraps his hand around Yoongi's wrist, pulls his grip off his arm and lets Yoongi's hand fall lifeless to his side. "I have to do what's best for me."

Yoongi's chest seizes in pain, his stomach feels like he took a direct hit. That's the problem. While he was building a life for them, while Yoongi was making a life for them, Seokjin was still caught in me. He thought they had one heart, one mind, one perfect symmetry. Now he sees what a fool he was, losing himself in young love. He wonders if he ever really knew Seokjin at all. The man in front of him looks like a stranger, cruel, indifferent, weak-minded and easily persuaded.

The blood in Yoongi's veins run like ice, freezing every warm feeling, every blissful memory, everything that was the last year and a half with Seokjin, turning it into lies and regrets and shrapnel cutting deep into his soul.

Seokjin steps back and takes his luggage from the bed. He whispers something to him but Yoongi's mind cannot understand it. Goodbye, or sorry, it doesn't matter, nothing Seokjin says matters anymore. The image of Seokjin's retreating form blurs through what Yoongi later realizes are tears, the last vision of a bitter dream he was stupid enough to believe in. Yoongi collapses onto the bed, staring blankly in front of him as he hears the door to the apartment door click closed, a signal that Seokjin left, truly left.

Yoongi is alone, his heart broken and shattered like shards of glass at his feet, replaced with a pulsing, enveloping sense of regret.